History 233 Reading Guide

The Rise Of The "Middle Class" Family

  • Jan Lewis, "The Republican Wife:  Virtue and Seduction in the Early Republic," William and Mary Quarterly 3d Ser., 44.4 (1987), 689-721.   JSTOR
  • Linda Kerber, "The Paradox of Women's Citizenship in the Early Republic:  The Case of Martin vs. Massachusetts, 1805," American Historical Review 97.2 (1992), 349-378.   JSTOR

Questions:

  • According to Jan Lewis, why did revolutionary writers use marriage as a model for social and political relationships?  How did the revolutionary ideal of marital—and hence social and political—relationships evolve?
  • Lewis argues that there was a disjunction between the ideal and the realities of "republican marriages"—especially for women?  What were the intended goals of the proposed ideal, and what was the ideal not intended to create in terms of women's role and status in the new republic?
  • Ultimately, what role were the revolutionaries able to give women in the new republic?
  • According to Linda Kerber, why did the James Martin v. Massachusetts (1805) case about Anna Gordon Martin's confiscated property raise such thorny issues about women's place, role, and responsibility as members and/or citizens in the new republic?
  • How did the lawyers and judges attempt to combine arguments based on British common law, "natural" law, and the laws of the State of Massachusetts in order to make their cases and decisions?  What were they trying to protect and defend?